While Earth Day is still a few weeks away, we were anxious to put together some plans about the contributions we were going to make to the environment this year. We knew the basics, like using less water and electricity, driving fewer miles, keeping tires properly inflated, eating locally grown produce (take a look at the local food challenge we did last year) and bringing reusable bags to the store, but we were really interested in digging a bit deeper. After hours of research we’ve found a few gems to share that will make an impact this Earth Day.
Plant a Tree
Perhaps this isn’t earth shattering, but it’s our personal tradition to plant a tree each year. Trees produce the most oxygen when they are growing rapidly, so new growth is important. One tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the average household produces 33,261 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. You can calculate how much your household produces, see how well you stack up against the average household and learn ways to reduce your impact.
When selecting a tree, we wanted to be sure to select a native variety, so we used this list of native plants from Maryland Coastal Bays. Planting a tree in your own yard can provide shade, reduce energy consumption in the summer, and provide a windbreak to reduce cold drafts in the winter. We love the affordability of the trees sold by ArborDay.org and the little extras they tend to throw in to your order. We also love that they ship the trees to you at the time they should be planted in your region, making the process fool-proof. This year we decided on a red maple, because it is a fast growing tree, is beautiful in the fall and the seeds provide food for animals. Note that each tree has an order deadline based on your planting zone. For instance, the red maple’s order deadline for Delmarva is April 21st.
Donate a Tree
If you don’t have space to plant a tree, you can consider donating. For just $1 you can purchase a tree through The Canopy Project, whose goal is to plant 7.8 billion trees, one for each person projected to be on Earth in 2020 for Earth Day’s 50th anniversary.
Consider Renewable Energy
For many of us interested in renewable energy the options seem limited, especially to renters or those that own units in a multi-family building. Or maybe you just feel like the initial investment is too great, or that it requires too much research and you’ll get to it some other day in the future (AKA never). Enter Arcadia Power, a wind energy solution available to everyone in the United States that can cost the same amount as you pay right now on your electricity bill, but with a much greener footprint. Arcadia Power links to your current utility supplier. Your electricity still comes to you via your same provider, but you pay your bill through Arcadia who in turn produces clean energy at their wind farms for your usage. If the wind doesn’t blow one month, that’s okay, you don’t experience any outages. Choose a free account, and your monthly power bill won’t change at all, and 50% of your electricity will now be sourced from wind farms. Choose a Premium Account and 100% of your usage will be sourced from wind farms, adding just 1.5 cents per kWh to your utility bill (Virginians actually get a bit of a discount at 1.2 cents per kWh). Look up how many kWh you used on your last electric bill to get an idea of the amount you would pay for a premium plan and for all your electricity to come from a renewable resource. We signed up and were impressed by how quick and easy it was. Learn more from this quick and easy video on how Arcadia Power works with your provider.
If you own your own home, there are so many steps you can take to explore renewable energy, and we don’t want to take away from that option. Owning your own system means that you can actually reduce your energy bill, and with some providers in some states, even potentially sell excess power back to the utility provider. We suggest doing research on the options in your area, and your utility providers regulations to find the one that’s right for your home. You can also find the incentives for using renewable energy by state:
Did you know that recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a computer for 3 hours? Recycling does not have consistent rules across different cities, and some stations are not equipped to handle the same items as others. Luckily, municipalities have made it easy to look up recycling guidelines in your area so you can easily become familiar with what can and cannot be recycled. Curbside recycling pickup is also available in areas across Delmarva.
People have been composting for years, but we recently found an article that convinced us to start, saying when added to soil, compost can filter out urban stormwater pollutants by 60 – 95%. According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance, compost can hold 5 times its weight in water, so it reduces stormwater runoff. It also immobilizes and degrades pollutants, improving water quality. We made our own affordable compost bin by purchasing two 5 gallon buckets at the hardware store. Drill holes in the bottom of one bucket to drain excess liquid from compost. Place a rock in the bottom of the bucket without holes, and place the bucket with holes inside. This allows your compost bucket to be slightly elevated for drainage. Lift the bucket of compost out of the drainage bucket and shake once a month. There are lots of options for creating your own compost bin online, so find the option that works for you!
Make Your Yard Bay Friendly
Household gardeners tend to use pesticides at 10 – 20 times the rate that farmers do according to Maryland Coastal Bays. Consider using the compost you produce above instead of fertilizers and recognize the benefits of insects in the garden. To make your yard even more bay friendly, direct gutters away from payments and onto the grass instead. Consider adding a pond or bird bath to your property. For those in areas that suffer from large amounts of insects during the warm months, bat houses can help deal with the problem in a more environmentally friendly way than spraying. You can also consider adding a rain garden in your yard to control flooding, and filter polluted runoff. We found a lot of instructions for designing a rain garden online.
Donate, Sell and Buy Secondhand
Selling your used items and buying secondhand has never been easier with sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, thredUP, Poshmark and the local Uptown Cheapskate and Kid to Kid in Salisbury. Of course there are also many local charities to donate items to as well. Allowing your items to have a new life and purchasing items secondhand is considered to have a significant environmental impact.
Join a Community Event
A number of organizations are thinking about spring, organizing cleanups and celebrating Earth Day. If you know of any additional Earth Day or cleanup events on Delmarva please let us know so we can add it to our list!